Posted in Blog Tour, Book Review, Family Drama, Friendship, Historical Fiction, Romance, Saga

The Girl From The WorkHouse Lynn Johnson 4* #Review @LynnJohnsonJots @HeraBooks @rararesources #Saga #Family #20thCentury #HistoricalFiction #BlogTour #BookReview

#TheGirlFromTheWorkHouse

Even in the darkest of times, she never gave up hope

Staffordshire, 1911. Ginnie Jones’s childhood is spent in the shadow of the famous Potteries, living with her mother, father and older sister Mabel. But with Father’s eyesight failing, money is in short supply, and too often the family find their bellies aching with hunger. With no hope in sight, Ginnie is sent to Haddon Workhouse.

Separated from everything she has known, Ginnie has to grow up fast, earning her keep by looking after the other children with no families of their own. When she meets Clara and Sam, she hopes that she has made friends for life… until tragedy strikes, snatching away her newfound happiness.

Leaving Haddon three years later, Ginnie finds work as a mouldrunner at the Potteries but never stops thinking about her friends in the workhouse – especially Sam, now a caring, handsome young man. When Sam and Ginnie are reunited, their bond is as strong as ever – until Sam is sent to fight in WW1. Faced with uncertainty, can Ginnie find the joy that she’s never had? Or will her heart be broken once again? An emotional, uplifting and nostalgic family saga that will make you smile, while tugging on your heart-strings.

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I received a copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review

My Thoughts…

Good historical family sagas require believable and complex characters who are easy to empathise. Detailed historical knowledge of the place and time, which filters into the story, making it authentic, and allowing the reader to share the sights, smells and sounds of the era. Finally, angst and hardship that allows the protagonist’s character to develop positively, giving hope that they will find a way out of their plight. ‘The Girl From the Workhouse’, encompasses all of the above and is a heartrending, heartwarming and motivational story.

Ginnie is a young girl who has always grown-up in poverty. Sadly, life becomes increasingly difficult and she and her parents have to go on Poor Relief and live in the workhouse. The family are split up and the first part of the story explores Ginnie’s experiences as a girl in the workhouse environment. Her motivations and emotions are in keeping with her years, and you feel for her, she is so alone. Despite, this she works hard and makes friends, and forms a new family which makes her days bearable. Her life continues to be dogged by hardship and tragedy until she finally leaves the workhouse to live with her older sister who is married and needs an extra wage coming into the household.

The second part of the story follows Ginnie’s transition into a young woman, how she copes with coming of age, and her reacquaintance with her workhouse friend Sam. At this point, you hope for some genuine happiness in her troubled young life, but WW1 draws Sam into its conflict and once again her future and happiness is uncertain.

The setting in ‘The Potteries’ gives the story its authenticity and richness, the author’ connection and feeling for the area make this fictional story more believable. The saga is enriched with historical detail and events, and its characters are authentic to the period and very engaging.

Lynn Johnson was born in the Staffordshire Potteries and went to school in Burslem, where the novel is set. She left school with no qualifications and got a job as a dental nurse (and lasted a day), a nursery assistant, and a library assistant before her ambition grew and she enrolled at the Elms Technical College, Stoke-on-Trent and obtained six O’levels. She obtained a Diploma in Management Studies and a BA Hons in Humanities with Literature from the Open University while working full-time.

Most of her working life was spent in Local Government in England and Scotland, and ultimately became a Human Resources Manager with a large county council.

She started to write after taking early retirement and moving to the north of Scotland with her husband where she did relief work in the famous Orkney Library and Archives, and voluntary work with Orkney’s Learning Link. Voluntary work with Cats Protection resulted in them sharing their home with six cats.

She joined Stromness Writing Group and, three months after moving to Orkney wrote a short story which would become the Prologue to The Girl From the Workhouse.

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Posted in Book Review

Blog Tour: A Last Goodbye – Dee Yates – 4* Review

In a remote hill farm in beautiful Scotland, Ellen and her father Duncan are enjoying a peaceful life away from the belching mills and hustle and bustle of the growing towns. In time they’re joined by rugged farmhand Tom, come to lend some muscle to Ellen’s ageing father, who has begun to find sheep farming hard to manage alone. Almost inevitably romance grows between Ellen and the new arrival but once married, however, Ellen discovers that Tom has a brutish side to his character. As war in Europe spreads, she begins to dream of him leaving for the trenches as a way for her to escape.

Even with Tom fighting abroad, however, the family cannot hide from the realities of war as a group of POWs are brought to their valley to build a reservoir. And amongst the men, sworn enemies and shunned by all the locals, Ellen finds a gentler heart that she is difficult to resist…

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My Thoughts…

A different perspective on the effect of WW1, which explores the horror of war at the front and the battles fought by those left behind. Told, mainly from Ellen and Tom’s points of view the reader sees life on a Scottish sheep farm and in the trenches before and during WW1.

Tom decides to move from Yorkshire to Scotland for personal reasons, his relationship with Ellen happens by chance when his plans go awry, and it proves to be troubled from the start. Tom’s youth may excuse some of his actions, but his personality has many dark areas, which lead to violence and withdrawal from his new family, these are described well in this story, and the outcome is not a surprise. The trench scenes from WW1 are descriptive and convey the horror for the young soldiers in vivid detail.

Ellen never knew her mother and so has no female guidance when faced with Tom’s interest and questionable behaviour to a such a young girl. She has to grow up quickly and becomes a strong, likeable woman who always puts her family first. The hardship and heartbreak Ellen suffers is poignant reading.

The characters are well-written and realistic and the setting dramatic and unforgiving. The historical element adds depth to this emotional story and puts the characters’ actions and interactions in perspective.

The ending is full of hope for Ellen and has an air of inevitability for Tom. Hopefully, Ellen’s next chapter will be in a sequel?

Born and brought up in the south of England, the eldest girl of nine children, Dee moved north to Yorkshire to study medicine. She remained there, working in well-woman medicine and general practice and bringing up her three daughters. She retired slightly early at the end of 2003, in order to start writing, and wrote two books in the next three years. In 2007 she moved further north, to the beautiful Southern Uplands of Scotland. Here she fills her time with her three grandsons, helping in the local museum, the church and the school library, walking, gardening and reading. She writes historical fiction, poetry and more recently non-fiction. Occasionally she gets to compare notes with her youngest sister Sarah Flint who writes crime with blood-curdling descriptions which make Dee want to hide behind the settee.

 

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